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Tech Leaders Push Back Against Obama's Efforts To Divert Discussion From NSA 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-on-target dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Guardian reports that while President Obama tried to portray a meeting with tech leaders as a wide-ranging discussion of broader priorities including ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website Healthcare.gov, senior executives from Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA. 'We are there to talk about the NSA,' said one executive who was briefed on the company's agenda before the event. After meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden for two-and-a-half hours, the companies issued a one-line statement. 'We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.' Many of the senior tech leaders had already made public their demand for sweeping surveillance reforms in an open letter that specifically called for a ban on the kind of bulk data collection that a federal judge ruled on Monday was probably unlawful. Obama seemed sympathetic to the idea of allowing more disclosure of government surveillance requests by technology companies, according to a tech industry official who was briefed on the meeting. Marissa Mayer brought up concerns about the potentially negative impact that could be caused if countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates, the official said. That would require technology companies to build data centers in each country — a costly problem for American Internet companies. The decision by the tech giants to press their case in such a public and unified way poses a problem for the White House. The industry is an increasingly influential voice in Washington, a vital part of the US economy and many of its most successful leaders are prominent Democratic political donors."
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Tech Leaders Push Back Against Obama's Efforts To Divert Discussion From NSA

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  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:16PM (#45721437) Homepage Journal
    countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates

    In other words, a cash grab. Brazil isn't the most enlightened country when it comes to spying, so this is a little "pot kettle black" situation, but really its just an excuse to try to force more companies to spend more money in Brazil. It has absolutely nothing to do with the feigned "outrage" the politicians are espousing.
  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:17PM (#45721449)
    Say what you will about America, but there's hope here yet. If Snowden is stock, most investors have not only stopped selling, he's fast becoming a savvy "Buy".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:45PM (#45721699)

    The companies are concerned about US government surveillance ONLY because
    they know it will cost them money.

    Otherwise the companies don't care, because if they DID care they would have
    raised hell long before now. But the companies did not do that, did they ? No,
    in fact they were willing servants for the swine in the government until the revelations
    Snowden caused caused their positions to become unpopular. SO now these
    companies are setting new records for backpedaling performance. There is not
    much if any moral difference between these companies and the Nazis who tried to
    claim they were "just following orders" when they were on trial at Nuremberg.

    As Vonnegut would have said if he were still around :

    "So it goes".

    .

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:49PM (#45721723) Journal
    The reason they had a meeting is to A) make it seem like Obama is doing something, and B) deflect blame from the president (because he is doing something).

    Soon expect to see Obama decree changes that sound impressive but in effect amount to nothing (ie, some new oversight commission).
  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:52PM (#45721753)

    The fact that both of these companies have CEOs that would like to keep their jobs would suffice. Any CEO that would try to exit a country of size and importance of Brazil in the name of "not following local laws" where local laws are about protecting locals from spying will be gone next day.

    That goes even for Google. This isn't "we're protecting users (actually protecting our source code from being stolen)".

  • by chill (34294) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:02PM (#45721827) Journal

    ...you sound like you are howling at the moon.

    This is the Internet. That is what they do here.

    That being said, your civics lesson left out the large role lobbying and campaign contributions play in the decisions and actions of both Congress and the Executive. While the President can safely ignore the ranting of Internet dogs, he and the other players can't just blow off the leaders of some of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world. Mr. Obama may not be seeking re-election, but anyone looking for $$ from that crowd would do well to notice that they don't give a damn about the ACA and are up in arms about the NSA.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:03PM (#45721841)

    Not like those corporation give a rat's ass about the constitution or citizen liberties.

    Hell, their "stalker economy" business model is partially responsible for enabling the NSA. [washingtonpost.com] We can expect them to do everything they can to minimize their exposure on this problem, even if it makes things worse for us regular citizens. It is just serendipity that our interests and their interests are kind of sort of aligned for the moment like they were aligned on SOPA but you don't hear a peep from them about the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) treaty negotiations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:21PM (#45721969)

    I've never voted in a presidential election, for exactly that reason.

    Then you're even worse than the ones who vote for bad reasons, because you're giving their vote more weight.

    Get off your ass and at least try to make a difference.

  • by dido (9125) <dido@impe r i u m .ph> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:25PM (#45721987)

    The only thing corporations care about (insofar as organisations are capable of caring about anything), most especially publicly traded corporations, is money. It would open a corporation to shareholder lawsuits if it were not trying to maximise their profits using whatever means available at its disposal. That is the nature of these monsters that have been created by legal instruments. If you want them to care about anything, you have to show them how much it will cost them not to care about it. In the absence of laws against pollution, it saves money for corporations to pollute, so to get them to stop polluting, laws are written that make them liable for fines when they do. A properly-written anti-pollution law will make it cheaper for a company to buy equipment to clean up or minimise pollution than to pay the fines the government exacts for violating the law. In the same way, it saved money for corporations to be compliant with the NSA, so now other countries are making it impossible for them to operate in their countries (which costs them a market and hence money) using systems that make it easy for the NSA to do its spying. It remains to be seen whether this potential loss of business or increased operating expenses will be enough to make them rebel against the NSA. To corporations, money talks and bullshit walks every time.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:01PM (#45722149) Journal

    but he needs to understand that pervasive surveillance is also bad for business.German coalition favors German-owned or open source software, aims to lock NSA out

    There's no shortage of people willing to point that out. Having said that though, there could be some great benefits to us ordinary people if it encourages government adoption of open source and local products.

    Germany’s new coalition government listed open source software among its IT policy priorities, and said it will take steps to protect its citizens against espionage threats from the NSA and other foreign intelligence agencies.

    Coalition parties CDU, CSU and SPD signed up to the plans Monday in Berlin.

    The new government’s goal is to keep core technologies, including IT security, process and enterprise software, cryptography and machine-to-machine communication on proprietary technology platforms and production lines in Germany or in Europe, according to the coalition agreement.

    But the government will also promote the use and development of open platforms and open source software as an alternative to closed proprietary systems, and will support the use of those in Europe, the parties said in the agreement. The public sector will need to consider open source solutions as a possibility when purchasing new IT, they said.

    They also want to compete on a global level with “software made in Germany” and strengthen the quality of security, data protection, design and usability by doing so

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2081140/german-coalition-favors-germanowned-or-open-source-software-aims-to-lock-nsa-out.html [pcworld.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:05PM (#45722169)

    Please try to contribute more. GPs comment was admirably strident but lacked substance and subtlety; your post is as useful as saying 'I agree'.

    For my part, I still find it hard to take the likes of Google seriously as a defender of privacy. Their recent CEO said terrible things:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/04/google-ceo-eric-schmidt-privacy_n_776924.html [huffingtonpost.com]

    • "With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches [...] We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."

    • "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place,"

    • "In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you,. ... We need a [verified] name service for people, ...Governments will demand it."

    Though he has been wise, too. From the same article:

    "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,"

    The point being: Google and the rest of the ad-funded online companies profit from our personal data, and have an interest in the erosion of our privacy.

    Whether they like it or not, they have a motive to stop government surveillance of the internet simply because it threatens to make people less willing to share personal information on the internet.

    Invasion of privacy is bad, whether it's the government that's doing it, or the people.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @08:24AM (#45724651) Homepage Journal
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2007/10/nsa-asked-for-p/ [wired.com]
    "NSA Domestic Surveillance Began 7 Months Before 9/11, Convicted Qwest CEO Claims"
    Links to the trial http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/files/512.pdf [wired.com]
    "...made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request. When he learned that no such authority had been granted and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process, including the Special Court which had been established to handle such matters, Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act."

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